UNESCO and the Republic of Serbia help people have fuller advantage of information flows

As Internet use and access to information continue to rise at a rapid rate, so does the amount of beneficial and harmful content. The concerns are dual. They are obviously about the dangers of harmful content itself to all people. There are also worries about how the detrimental content crowd out and makes it difficult to identify beneficial content.

What started as trickle of digital pollution decades ago, is now a flood that is becoming increasingly harder to handle. The impact to the world is an environment in which people are confronted with disinformation on a daily basis and where lies can cost lives.

This will be treated at the thematic webinars on 27 and 29 April 2021 presenting various experiences, innovation and policy dialogue on media and information literacy from experts and practitioners. The webinars are open to the public and will discuss UNESCO’s and the Republic of Serbia’s jointly launched publication: Media and Information Literate Citizens: Think Critically, Click Wisely (Second Edition of the UNESCO Model Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Educators and Learners).

The four webinars will cover issues such as:

  • Media and information literacy as a prerequisite to tackle disinformation and conspiracy theories
  • Policies and practices: Futures media and information literacy
  • Media and information literacy as a backbone for intercultural dialogue, and anti-hate speech
  • Media and information literacy by design: can media, artificial intelligence and libraries help?

The publication is meant to counteract this spread of disinformation in a sustainable manner and to help people to have fuller advantage of new information flows. It promotes media and information literacy at the root, which is an effective way to change toxic online and offline behaviours that are nowadays prevalent on many digital platforms and at various parts of society. It was launched on 22 April 2020, by high-level speakers from UNESCO, Serbia, the European Commission and the African Union.

Disinformation is always harmful. But lies on a mass scale, a disinfodemic, is particularly potent during a pandemic, where “fake news” can prevent people getting treatment or acknowledging they are even ill. COVID-19 saw a wave of such falsehoods spread across the world, which hampered the effectiveness of governments’ measures around the world.

We are always running behind lies, we never manage to catch up, neither to lies or rumours and sometimes it can be counterproductive to try to do away with them with a counterargument, because the counter argument will just fuel the fire.
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

Mr Xing Qu, in his introductory remarks highlighted that: “Media and Information Literacy has the potential to empower citizens with the necessary competencies to address key issues of our time”. He continued in noting the timeliness and relevance of the updated Media and Information Literacy Curriculum in responding to the COVID-19 disinfodemic.

This sentiment was echoed by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Ms Ana Brnabić, who drew from personal experience when recounting that: “All of the 'fake news' that was coming up on a daily basis, driven both from some media outlets as well as, and perhaps much more so from the social networks, meant that for all of those involved in the fight against COVID found the struggle twice as difficult.”

COVID-19 hasn’t created the problem, but it has exasperated it and shone a light on just how important action is on the issue. According to ITU, some 70% of all youth globally are now online. Unsurprisingly, this acknowledgement is acutely felt by the youth, who have grown up digitally native and potentially more aware of the digital problems than with its wealth of benefits.

Today, in the European Union, over 40% of young people consider that critical thinking, media and democracy are not taught sufficiently in school. This is why we are now increasing our efforts to support media literacy through various funding instruments and initiatives, and even by our EU law.
Vera Jourova, Vice President and Commissioner of the European Commission

H. E. Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission, supported this approach at the event.

Education should more actively help learners to develop the ability to critically approach, filter, and assess information, and more importantly, to identify disinformation. Online and offline safety is paramount in achieving these, as more children use the internet for learning. They become increasingly vulnerable to online forms of exploitation and abuse.
Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission

Join the 27 and 29 April 2021 webinars to continue this urgent international dialogue here.